Wildfires fed by hot Santa Ana winds flared into gigantic waves of flame that devoured entire neighborhoods, choked skies over Southern California with ash and killed 13 people in the state's deadliest wildfire tragedy in half a century.
The blazes triggered a harrowing flight to safety Sunday for hundreds of residents, who had little time to collect cherished possessions before escaping.
"I was grabbing wet towels. Fire was at our feet. It was blazing over our heads and burning everywhere," said Lisza Pontes, 43, recounting her Sunday morning escape from a fire in San Diego County.
She and her family, awakened at 3:45am, made a mad dash from their home to their car and, as they drove away, saw a neighbor's mobile home explode in flames.
From the Mexican border to the suburbs north of Los Angeles, much of the region was swiftly transformed into a charred wasteland. More than 800 homes have been destroyed. The death toll is the worst since the 1953 Rattlesnake Fire killed 15 firefighters in Mendocino National Forest.
Million-dollar homes evaporated almost as fast as canyon brush in San Diego's affluent Scripps Ranch area, where charred eucalyptus trees blocked the roads.
About 30,000 homes remained in danger from the fires, which had consumed more than 120,000 hectares -- the equivalent of 1,200km. In many parts of the region, the fires kept growing despite the frantic efforts of more than 7,000 firefighters.
A state of emergency was declared in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura counties as the fires closed major highways and roads, and disrupted air travel nationwide.
Nine people were killed by the so-called Cedar Fire, the state's largest blaze at approximately 40,000 hectares. About 260 homes, ranging from modest to expensive, were destroyed.
The victims included two people who died inside their car as they apparently tried to escape the flames.
Among others killed were one person whose body was found in a motor home, and three in other vehicles, county sheriff spokeswoman Susan Knauss said. Three were killed while trying to escape on foot and two were dead on arrival at local hospitals.
The fire was ignited on Saturday near the mountain town of Julian when a lost hunter set off a signal fire, authorities said. The hunter was detained and may face charges.
Another fire near San Diego that started Sunday killed two people and destroyed 57 homes while burning about 6,000 hectares, authorities said. It also prompted evacuations in northeastern Escondido.
Around the congested suburbs of San Bernardino, a city of about 200,000 about 80km east of Los Angeles, one flank of a nearly 32,000-hectare fire burned through four towns while the other flank destroyed more than 450 homes.
Two men collapsed and died, one as he was evacuating his canyon home and the other as he watched his house burn, the county coroner said.
SCHEDULE: The delegation is due to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen this morning and witness the signing of an MOU on bilateral health cooperation in the afternoon US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar yesterday arrived in Taipei aboard a US government plane at the head of a delegation that is the highest-level visit by a US official since Washington switched diplomatic recognition to China in 1979. Azar’s flight landed at Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) at 4:48pm, nearly one hour earlier than scheduled, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The apron where it landed is reserved for military aircraft, the Songshan Air Force Base Command said. The members of Azar’s delegation included HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, HHS Chief of Staff Brian
CHINESE FIGHTERS: Beijing marked the US Cabinet member’s visit by briefly sending two warplanes across the median line of the Taiwan Strait yesterday morning President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday met with US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar in the highest-level official meeting between the two nations since 1979. “It is a true honor to be here to convey a message of strong support and friendship from [US] President [Donald] Trump to Taiwan,” Azar said during the open portion of his courtesy call to the Presidential Office, which was streamed live online before Tsai and Azar held a closed-door meeting. “Taiwan’s response to COVID-19 has been among the most successful in the world, and that is a tribute to the open, transparent,
PARTNERSHIP AND LEARNING: A Princeton University health policy researcher said that the nation would be a ‘treasure trove’ of information for the US health chief US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar on Friday said he wants to learn about Taiwan’s “incredibly effective” response to COVID-19, even though the nation did things that the US has fumbled, such as having a unified strategy and citizens willing to wear masks. Azar leads a US delegation arriving today for a three-day visit to Taiwan. They are to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and health system leaders, and Azar is to give a speech to public health graduates. “The message of this trip is about Taiwan,” Azar said in an interview, deflecting a question about China.
Taiwanese-independence advocates yesterday accused former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of breaking national security laws and called on the judiciary to investigate after his statement that “China will wage a battle, which will be quick and will be the last battle for Taiwan.” Ma showed his true colors “as a mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party” in his speech on Monday when he said the “first battle will be the last,” Taiwan Republic Office (台灣國辦公室) director Chilly Chen (陳峻涵) said. “Ma is threatening Taiwanese by claiming that Beijing will launch a quick invasion of Taiwan, but that the US military will have no